Why did the Bills draft EJ Manuel?Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst ___________________________
Why did the Buffalo Bills draft EJ Manuel? It’s clear after looking at the team’s victory against Detroit. The Bills recently demoted the former Florida State star to backup status after a 2-2 start where he was less than stellar. They decided that Kyle Orton would give them a better chance of winning right now.
When did NFL teams decide that it was not their job to develop talent? Manuel had questions coming out of college. Everybody, including his college coach Jimbo Fisher, realized that he was far from a finished product. Most football people were surprised when the Bills selected Manuel in the first round. It was referred to as a reach pick by many in the know but Manuel was a great talent to develop. What happened to the development part?
Manuel was thrown to the wolves as a rookie last season and he played like a rookie that was not ready to play. In his 10 starts last season he flashed signs of great promise completing over 66% of his passes. He also had a couple games where he completed 45% of his passes. Five of those games he was interception free but he also had two games where he recorded two and four picks. Overall his rookie season was a learning experience filled with injuries, mistakes, and successes; pretty normal for any rookie but good for a rookie who probably should have held a clipboard in this first couple of seasons.
This season, Manuel seemed to be improving early on. In his first two games of the season, he seemed to be managing the team very well and the Bills started the season 2-0. However the 24 year old struggled in his third and fourth game of the season. He was under 60 percent in both games and threw two interceptions in his last start against the Houston Texans.
The Bills were competitive in all four games, and it’s easy to argue that Manuel was not the reason they lost two in a row and when you look at their most recent win with Orton as quarterback, it’s easy to see that Orton was not the primary reason for winning.
So why did the Bills give Manuel the quick hook? Why give the impression that they don’t believe in their first round draft pick? Why not keep developing him? The one thing good NFL front offices know is that when you draft a quarterback in the first round you are thinking about his impact 10 years down the line. You are making an investment in your future. If you start a young developmental quarterback, then you have to be ready to struggle or be inconsistent for a couple years until they are ready to lead your franchise consistently.
Instead of being proactive, the Bills were reactionary and gave Manuel a much shorter leash than his contemporaries. It’s a replacement that will not produce more wins, just more inconsistency. At 31, Orton is a known commodity. At 24 Manuel is still undefined and raw clay yet he’s being made the scapegoat for two close losses and given no credit for the two wins. When Andrew Luck has a bad game (AND I’M NOT COMPARING EJ MANUEL TO ANDREW LUCK FROM A SKILLS PERSPECTIVE), it’s everyone’s fault but Luck’s but when he has a good game, he is the sole reason for their success.
Other quarterbacks who have had more starts and produced similar or worse results, still have their job. Why would the Bills throw in the towel on your first round pick now? If they feel they made a mistake then just own it and say that. Are we really supposed to buy Kyle Orton as a better option or they using Manuel’s benching to try and keep their jobs longer?
Who really knows the reason but when they made that decision, they ensure that you would hear their name early in the 2015 draft next spring.